Author: A. X. Zanier
Title: Prince of Thieves
Disclaimer:I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to "The Invisible Man." Any additional characters or ideas are mine to do with as I please. Timeline: After Past Lies
Comments: Another of the later Alyx Silver fics that actually received the beta treatment.
Prince of Thieves
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty--power is ever stealing from the many to the few." That was said by Wendell Phillips. Now, I knew he was right. I had stolen from many people over the years to benefit only myself. But times, and I, had changed.
Now? Well, now I worked for the government, and stealing, at least of the type I used to do, was no longer an option. Or so the Official tried to get me to believe. Yet he also wanted me to believe that stealing, when it was for the benefit of the Agency, was somehow different. He'd never quite convinced me of that, but I had learned that, sometimes, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons can be justified.
"The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime." Well, that's what I was hoping anyway.
"I'm bored," Darien said suddenly, sitting ensconced in the blankets and pillows of Alyx's bed.
This was rather surprising to her, seeing as she was standing at the foot of the bed with a couple of glasses of wine and in a state of dishabille. She was wearing a violet silk bathrobe that was barely covering the nothing she wore beneath. Cocking her head to one side she said, "Okaaay. I guess I could hit one of those stores on the west side. Do you prefer leather or latex?"
It took him a moment, but when what she'd said finally registered on his mind, he shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I was thinking about something else."
She walked over to the bed and sat down, handing him one of the glasses. "I should hope so. I suppose we could try it on the ceiling, but I can't guarantee not to get distracted and drop us." She sipped from her glass and watched while he almost choked on his wine at her words.
"Alyx...you wouldn't," he blustered, looking rather surprised. He'd never even considered anything like that. She had developed some habits surrounding her powers -- never had to worry about leaving on a light or forgetting to close a door -- but in general, unless it was directly work-related, she rarely used them. Being able to hit someone with a miniature lightning bolt at 30 yards was just not something that was needed on an average day. Neither was being on the ceiling.
She just looked at him over the top of the glass.
Shifting, he moved closer to her and kissed her shoulder, first baring it by sliding the bathrobe out of the way.
"Then why are you bored?" she asked quietly, trying to not let what he was doing influence her in any way. It was a losing battle, but she resisted the urge to melt until she got an answer.
He lifted his head to look at her. "Work. I mean, come on, snakes?"
Alyx laughed. "So you miss being shot or stabbed or captured and caused severe pain in one form or another?" The last six weeks or so had been rather boring for the Agency; much of the time they had been stuck doing Fish and Game scut work. But, given a choice between that and risking serious injury or death, she'd take the scut work any day. It gave her time to work on some of her personal projects and to just spend some time with Darien without the specter of danger hanging over their heads.
"Well, kinda, yeah." What he really missed was the rush. The anticipation of risk, of the potential danger, of succeeding against the odds. It gave him a thrill similar to that of some his more complex thefts. He knew Alyx had been enjoying this little island of calm in their otherwise insane lives, but he was getting bored again. He already knew how to solve his little boredom problem, but this time he'd need some help.
Alyx finished her wine and set the glass on the headboard of the bed. "So, capturing several dozen snakes because Bobby got overly enthusiastic doesn't count as dangerous?"
"They were just snakes. Not that big a deal." Darien shrugged and returned part of his attention to removing the bathrobe she wore.
Just snakes. There had been about fifty of the suckers and all of them had gotten loose after Bobby shot out the tire of the truck and caused it to crash over on its side. The guys who'd been trying to smuggle the snakes in were caught easily enough, considering both had been knocked unconscious in the crash. Catching the snakes, on the other hand, had been...interesting. Turned out Bobby had a bit of a phobia concerning the wee beasties, which left her and Darien to do most of the work.
Sad to say, but Darien had had no idea what he was doing. At one point, she'd caught him trying to pick up a rather venomous coral snake. She'd startled him so badly that he'd quicksilvered, much to his dismay and Bobby's amusement. The best thing to do, though, really. The snakes wanted no part of him when he was radiating such a degree of cold. It even put some of the snakes nearest to him into a stupor, which made them dead easy to catch.
She used her own quicksilver to do the same thing, and they had soon had the majority of the snakes snoozing in the back of the truck. She'd tried entering the minds of the snakes to control them, but they were too primitive, gained their input in too different a manner. She had no real way of influencing them other than luring them with little pockets of heat she could create and discouraging them with the intense cold of quicksilver. When back-up arrived -- back-up that could actually deal with fifty-some snakes, some of which were extremely poisonous -- they found her sitting against the rear door of the truck, calmly holding an eight foot anaconda that was snoozing peacefully in her arms. The beast had refused to go back into the truck, and instead coiled snugly about her. Both Darien and Bobby were convinced she was completely nuts.
"Try telling Bobby they were just snakes," she commented to him with a smile.
Darien dropped his head and began to shake with laughter. "He's never going to live this down," he said, and started quoting Indiana Jones. "'Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?'" Then he just laughed harder.
Alyx laughed as well, leaning against him. This wasn't getting them anywhere. She still didn't know why he was mentioning the fact that he was bored, and suspected that he was trying to find the courage to tell her. "All right," she urged as the laughter wound down. "What are you trying so hard not to tell me?"
He looked at that sweet smile and the tousled hair of hers and set his glass beside hers. "I need a favor," he said, not quite able to meet her eyes.
"Anything," she replied without hesitation. 'Well, almost anything,' she amended to herself. There were some things she wouldn't do, even for him.
"You're easy," he commented. "But you might want to listen to what I have to say first, before you agree to anything."
His tone had turned serious, which only increased her curiosity. "Hmmm. Have you been misbehaving in your off hours?" Alyx asked this as a joke, but the look on his face told her everything she needed to know. "You have. Dare!" She didn't sound angry or even disappointed, just a bit surprised.
He moved and lay back down on the bed, completely unrepentant.
"Why? Besides the boredom that is?" She pulled the robe tighter about herself and shifted to sit cross-legged on the bed.
He rubbed his face in his hands, trying to think of how to explain this to her so that she would understand. "I've been a thief most of my life; the only reason I'm with the Agency is because I got caught once too often. I traded one life sentence for another."
Alyx just sat quietly. She knew all this, but he had never really talked with her about it. They rarely discussed their pasts before the Agency, unless it was necessary or involved something they were currently dealing with. Like when Jess had showed up. A whole lot about her past had come out then. She was just glad he had stood beside her through it. She would not have blamed him if he'd left. It was a hell of a lot to deal with, and it had once again left her wondering just who she really was. When she was with Darien, though, it didn't matter.
"Not that it's been all bad," he amended, looking at her. For a moment he let himself think about it again. If he hadn't said yes to Kevin, he'd still be in prison. He would never have come to the Agency, never have met Alyx. She'd still be with her kids and her husband -- which they now knew was not the best of options -- and she'd never have gotten her powers. Never have met him. Even she had come to accept that, given the alternatives, this was the best possible outcome. And hell, he could safely say he'd much rather be with her, even stuck with the gland, than still in prison trying not to be consumed by the horror he knew it could become.
Out of all the women he had known, had been with, she was the first he'd been able to talk to about some of the things that had happened to him in his life. Things that sometimes still brought him awake sweating with a scream trapped in his throat because the memory was so strong. She was the first to have accepted him for who he was, flaws and all. The first he hadn't felt the need to lie to about who and what he was.
Damn, this was turning out to be harder than he thought.
He screwed up enough courage to continue. "Working here has let me use some of my skills, and taught me a bunch more, but it's not the same. A thief avoids confrontation, while we tend to walk headfirst into trouble. A good thief spends time planning every move, for every potential problem, but half the time we don't know what's going on until we're in the middle of trouble that we didn't even know was coming."
Alyx nodded in agreement. The Official was known for not giving all the information he had on some cases. Or sending them jobs for multiple reasons but only telling them about the one on the surface. This had led them into some dangerous situations that none of them liked or enjoyed.
"Being a thief requires a certain mindset, and working for the Agency isn't always compatible. It hasn't been an easy adjustment," he added a bit ruefully.
Alyx actually burst out laughing. "How do you think I feel? I went from being a subservient housewife to wonder woman. At least some of the skills overlapped for you."
"You win on that one, but you've adjusted to the work much better than I have. You simply learned what you needed; you had no habits to unlearn. I had to, still have to, consciously adjust my mindset every time I go out on a job," Darien countered.
"Hmmm. Okay, I can see that, but what does this have to do with you keeping your hand in?" Alyx reached out and trailed a hand down his nearest arm. "And what are you doing with your ill-gotten gains?"
He grabbed her hand when it reached his. "Nothing. I mean, I haven't actually been stealing anything. Well, not at first."
Alyx gave him an odd look.
"At first, I'd do things like leave candy or gifts for kids or old friends that I kinda missed. Stuff like that. The challenge was simply to get in and get out. Instead of taking stuff, I'd leave stuff. Like the tooth fairy." He shrugged and squeezed her hand, hoping she'd understand.
"I hear a 'but' in there," she said with a smile.
"Yeah, a big one," he sighed. "I happened to be in this one house and the owner was awake in her room. I overheard her on the phone; she'd been swindled by some local get-rich-quick scheme and was having a hell of a time trying to make ends meet. No one seemed to be willing to help her catch the guy."
Alyx unfolded and moved closer to him, lifting the hand holding hers and kissing his fingers. "And you decided to do something about it," she stated.
Darien almost looked embarrassed. "Yeah, I did. Found the guy's place and broke in. Got the proof she needed to get the guy arrested."
Alyx didn't react at first. She was thinking. It took a bit longer than she planned.
"Alyx? You mad at me?" he wondered aloud with a hint of worry in his voice.
She shook her head and then kissed him. "Mook, why would I be mad?" Then she made the connection and began to laugh again. "Please don't tell me you're the 'Robin Hood' thief that's been in the news lately?"
He nodded a bit sheepishly, and she just laughed harder. "Oh gods, Dare. If the Fat Man finds out, I think he'll have a coronary, and then Bobby would have to kill you." She collapsed back on the bed, looking up at the wooden frame of the canopy.
Some of the most annoying and elusive scam artists and swindlers in town had been arrested over the last several weeks, after the needed, but previously unattainable, proof against them had mysteriously turned up. The miracles were being attributed to a 'Robin Hood'-type thief who was stealing the information right out from under the bad guys' noses and leaving multiple copies with known victims. The police were supposedly looking for the thief, but a majority of the city was more than happy that he'd done what the local law enforcement had been unable to do. And she was currently lying in bed with him.
Darien waited patiently until her laughter dissolved into giggles and then snickers. She eventually got control of herself. "And here I was worried you'd done something exceptionally stupid, even for you."
"Stupid? Hey that's not nice." He rolled so that he was looking down at her, supported by his arms.
"I'm sorry," she said, trying not to laugh again. "Darien, what am I going to do with you?"
"Help me. I've got one more I want to do, but it's looking to be a two-man job." He was serious.
"I'm no thief," she responded with a laugh.
"You're not a secret agent either, but you seem to do that well enough," he tossed back at her.
That silenced her laughter and made her stop and think. "Point taken, but I ain't gonna rush into this..."
He jumped on her words. "Does this mean you'll help?" He had been at least a little concerned that she might just turn him over to the Official, if not the police, just to get him to stop. Or worse; tell Hobbes.
She nodded. "On one condition."
"Anything," he said, using her own words.
"You teach me to pick locks," she requested reaching up to run her hand along his face.
"Is that all?" he asked, surprised. Admittedly, he had been refusing to do so for months now. It seemed like crossing a line to him -- she was the honest one, the good one, the innocent one -- but now, after everything that had happened, it didn't really seem to matter. He lowered himself down and kissed her. "Tomorrow, though, okay?" He undid the tie on the robe and opened it, revealing the tanned flesh beneath.
"And why is that?" she asked him, trying not to notice what his hands were doing.
"Because your hands are going to be otherwise occupied for a while," he chuckled, and then proceeded to make sure that indeed happened.
They met as his place the following evening.
It had been an unexciting day for Alyx, involving paperwork and some simulations down in the lab. For Darien, it was just paperwork. Claire ran a couple of tests on Alyx in the afternoon, just to make sure she was still holding up, personality-wise, and that she had gotten over any ongoing effects from her husband's recent visit. Most of the effects from that weren't physical, and she was dealing with it as well as could be expected. Darien was helping the most with that, just by being there.
The fact that Jess was dead now made some things easier on her. She didn't have to worry about him turning the kids over to his superiors, whoever they might be. She didn't have to worry about him showing up again. She didn't have to worry about him trying to tear her away from Darien. Not that that would be possible, not anymore.
Her brother, Michael, had been designated as her kids' guardian. He was currently living with them and training them for what was most likely going to be their future: working for the Agency.
When she walked through his door, Darien was just finishing up his dinner preparations, as it was his turn to cook. Alyx set her backpack down on his couch and then wandered over to the kitchen, wrapping her arms about him and leaning against his back.
"Long day?" he asked her, giving the sauce one last stir. He'd only seen her in passing today, except for a few minutes down in the Keep, and she'd been pretty busy then.
"Long, boring, unsuccessful day," she mumbled into his back. "And then Claire decided it was time to psychoanalyze me again and make sure my personality was still stable."
Darien chuckled. If Claire only knew. "She still doesn't know, huh?"
Alyx pulled away and moved to his side. "Like I'm going to be dumb enough to tell her?"
He wrapped an arm about her. "Dinner will be ready soon. Sit for a few." He steered her over to the couch and, once she'd moved her bag, they sat. "You're sure you'll be fine?"
"I'm quite sure. I really don't need or want to discuss my feelings with her. I seriously don't think she'd understand." She slouched down on the couch her legs stretched out along the floor. "Being with you for fifteen minutes does more good than hours of talking, and you know it."
"I know. You've come back amazingly well and fast, considering everything," he said, quietly leaning over to bring his head closer to hers.
"Yeah, well, it might have been fun, but I couldn't be multiple-me forever," she grouched, tipping her head back and closing her eyes.
"Oh, I don't know. It did keep us on our toes," he said teasingly. She opened her eyes to look at him. "Tell Claire to bug off. Michael said you were well enough, and next to me he'd be the one to know."
"Ah. Does that mean you think I'm okay? Really?" Her tone was serious. One of her biggest worries was him pushing her away because she had changed too much, had become too different for him to care anymore.
"Really. You may not be exactly the same as before, but no one stays the same forever. I certainly haven't," he told her. He meant every word. She wasn't the same as before Heilburg screwed with her mind, but if anything, it was in a good way. In many ways she'd still been very naive for someone so intelligent and doing what she did. Now she was a bit more cynical, a bit tougher, a bit less forgiving, and a lot more dangerous.
None of that mattered to him, though. He knew exactly how she felt inside -- had experienced it for himself -- and while she still had to fight and resist some of those more dangerous thoughts and emotions, she was still totally stuck on him, needed him, wanted him. It always surprised him. He knew how he felt about her, which had freaked him more than enough, but to know that she felt the same was just astonishing.
"And you are thinking too much again," she chided him. "This might not be where I would have chosen to end up, but I'll take it if it gets me you in the bargain."
He was leaning down to kiss her when the kitchen timer went off. With a groan of disappointment, he got up, turned it off, and then retrieved the manicotti he'd made earlier from the oven. It was the least he could do, considering what he was planning on asking of her.
He looked over at her, and for a moment he thought she might have fallen asleep, but then she turned to look at him resting her chin on the back of the couch.
"Food, then info, I take it?" she queried quietly.
He nodded. "With dessert."
She got to her feet and helped him get the food to the table. Then she chose a bottle of wine to drink. "Dessert, huh?"
Walking past her with the garlic bread, he paused and gave her a quick kiss. "Yes, dessert. Now sit and eat. You don't want the chef to feel insulted do you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Heaven forfend." But she sat and ate.
Darien was mildly surprised that she didn't demand information all through dinner. Instead, she calmly talked trivialities and about the most recent book they'd finished. She was driving him crazy with how patient she was; he had expected her to be a bit nervous, asking questions right and left. But, as they cleaned up, he realized she was treating this like just another job, not bothering to get all worked up until she had all the information. He wasn't quite sure if he liked that. To him this was anything but just another job.
They headed out of the apartment for his car, which would blend in far better, where they were going. As he opened the door for her, an unnecessary gesture that she did appreciate, she said, "I know how serious this is for you. I just figured you'd get to it when you were ready."
He let out a sigh of relief. "I was a bit worried."
"Dare, if I had been nervous and jumpy, how much confidence would you have had then?" She slid into the seat and looked up at him.
"Very little," he replied, knowing it was true. He shut her door and moments later they were on their way.
A little while later, they were sitting outside the small ice cream shop eating their desserts. Alyx spoke up. "Okay, I know we're not here for the ice cream, good as it is, so where's the target?"
Darien nodded at an impressive building just down the street and Alyx turned to look at it. She recognized the building after a moment. "You want to take down Nate Richards?" she asked as she turned back to him. "Are you nuts?"
He glanced at his wrist. "Not yet," he joked. "I need your help to find his records. He claims there are no real profits, that the money is all tied up in the company."
"Flashback to William J. McCorkle," Alyx muttered, and Darien gave her an odd look. "Guy who got nailed for the same thing in Florida back when I lived there." She thought for a moment. "You don't aim small do you, Robin?"
He raised his eyebrows at that last. "Does that make you Maid Marian?"
Alyx laughed. "Keep in mind what the 'Maid' stood for, bud." Looking back at the building she asked, "What do you need me for?"
"Somewhere in that computer system is the information on where the money is. I need you to find it," he answered quietly.
"What if it's not here?" she asked him, trying to think ahead.
"Then we check his house. There must be a trail somewhere." He could almost see the wheels turning in her mind.
"What's the security like?" She was ready for more input, trying to figure out if it was even feasible.
"A bitch. He has the money to pay for the best, and he has. You name the nasty little surprise, he probably has it. But I think, between the two of us, we can manage." He tipped his head slightly to the side. "I thought we'd scout now and make a try tomorrow night."
She was nodding her head. "Barring work happening."
He got to his feet. "You ready?"
"There's something I want to grab from my backpack first." She led the way back to his car and opened the trunk. After a moment of searching through her bag, she came out with the wireless internet connection for her laptop and a funny looking headset.
"What the hell is that?" he asked. She fitted the thing over her ear, with what looked like a small screen in front of her right eye.
"The one good thing I got from Arnaud. These rigs are great; eminently portable, have just enough built in memory to be useful, and I don't have to worry about a power source," Alyx told him, with glee in her voice as she powered the sucker up.
They began walking toward the building. "What are you going to do with it?"
"Well, right now I'm accessing the building's blueprints. Then I'm going to overlay the security schematics to get an idea of what we're going to deal with." Alyx said as she was doing exactly that. "Plus, with a little tweaking I may be able to override the security system through this rig."
"Are you sure you haven't done this before?" Darien asked her with a laugh. He had to admit he was suitably impressed. Though why he should be surprised by that he didn't know.
Alyx laughed and shook her head as they continued towards the building. A few more steps, a quick check to see if there were any watchers, and the two of them quicksilvered. They made their way around the back of the building to one of the service entrances. It had one of those key card locks that also required a code. Alyx laid her hand on the reader and inserted her mind into it.
"I can do this easy, without setting off an alarm," she whispered to him. She accessed her computer link and, after a bit of searching, came up with a phone number that would allow her access to the computer inside the building. Once inside, she compared the data she had found on the building to what was really in there and was not surprised to find some differences. Then she searched for the location of the main computer. As was typical, it was down in the sub-basement area of the building. That was where she'd need to be to gain the access she wanted.
"What?" he whispered right next to her.
"Later," she muttered. She was downloading the info and essentially e-mailing it to herself. "I have what I need. Anything else?"
"Do you have the guard info?" he asked. There would be people inside watching monitors, if not actually making rounds in the building, plus cleaning staff, late workers, all the usual.
"No, good thought." She accessed the scheduling for the week, which covered security as well as cleaning staff. Late night workers she could do nothing about. "Got it."
"Now we just need to find the best way in." Darien was looking up, noticing that the windows did indeed open on this building.
They started walking, checking out the perimeter. Alyx pulled the building blueprints back up and found a corner to drop the quicksilver. Darien joined her. "Problem?"
"Can't read the screen when I'm quicksilvered. Data I pull up I can...feel, I'd guess you'd say. I need to actually see the blueprint, though." Alyx answered in a soft voice.
"And you are looking at the blueprint because..." he asked with a smile. He had a feeling she was on to something.
"I think I might have a way in that isn't quite so obvious." Checking about for anyone, she led the way around to the side of the building where the main parking lot was. She paused and, after taking a moment to orient herself, began to walk purposefully. A bit of searching in one of the grassy dividers between parking lot sections revealed a well-camouflaged concrete opening. There was a hinged door in the top that had a very large lock on it.
Darien gave her an odd look. "Sewer?"
"Electrical conduit. Phone cables and stuff like that," she explained, looking up at him. "Leads right into the building."
"It can't be that easy," he said.
"It's not. There are at least three security gates to get through and," she looked him up and down, "it's going to be a really tight fit for you. The tunnel is only about three feet in diameter, but according to this we'd end up in the power distribution center, one level below the main computer." Alyx said. "I'll show you when we get back to your place." Her head cocked to the side. "Company," she said even as the quicksilver began to flow across her. Darien followed her lead, and moments later a pair of security guards came around the far side of the building, doing what looked like a routine check.
Alyx followed Darien and they made their way back to his car.
Alyx was lying sprawled the wrong way on Darien's bed with her laptop in front of her, going over a few things. This was looking to be pretty easy and, except for getting the info out of the mainframe, she wondered why he'd asked her to help. "Dare, how have you been pulling these off? I know you haven't been getting any extra counteragent."
He reached out from his position at the head of the bed and grabbed one of her ankles to stop the swinging of her legs. Part of her always seemed to be in motion, but he found it far more amusing than annoying. "Well, that's because I haven't been using the quicksilver to get into these places." He slid his hands further up her calf hoping to distract her, but her mind had settled on one track for now.
Her head tipped down so that her forehead rested on the bed and she groaned. "And that's how you want to do this one?"
"Yeah, is that a problem?" He began kneading the muscle of her leg, just because it was there.
"How far do you want to take this? I am going to need to use my powers to get in the computer, but the rest could pretty much be done without any extras..." she said, turning her head slightly to look at him.
"That's how I've been doing them. Just the skills I have." He could tell this had her a bit concerned. Since coming to the Agency, she had pretty much integrated her powers into her everyday life, and using them for a job was par for the course. Not that she relied on them, or flaunted their use. In fact, she avoided using her more dramatic abilities unless she had to, but the boss kept sending her on assignments that could not be easily completed without them. Some jobs could not be completed at all without her extra talents. Still, even after all this time, she still had a fear of hurting people with her abilities. What had happened with Arnaud and Heilburg only reinforced her worries.
Darien couldn't find fault with her concern. He'd seen her contain explosions, lift vehicles, stop bullets, any number of impossible feats. He still had no idea of the true extent of her power -- no one did. Claire had tried to measure her potential, but had been unable to. He was...scared wasn't the right word...more like in awe of what she could do, yet didn't. She had so much power, and yet she would rather laze around reading a book with him than do any of the dozen or so less-than-honest things he could think of to do with her powers. Too bad she hadn't been around when the Official tried to break the bank at that casino of Arnaud's. She'd have been much better at it than he, and without having to go invisible. Now if he just convince her to go to Las Vegas with him....
She shut off her computer and set it on the floor. Turning about, she crawled over to him and, after a kiss, curled up against him. "On one condition," she said.
"What?" he ran his hands through her hair and down her back.
"All bets are off if trouble happens," she stated, actually sounding tired.
He laughed. "Of course. I'm not that crazy."
She lifted her head to look at him. "You do remember what it is we are going to do, don't you?" When he nodded, she just shook her head. "What am I going to do with you?"
Rolling so that she was now beneath him, he said, "Oh, I have a few suggestions."